Lots of my one-to-one coaching clients have been asking for help to build their resilience.
- One wants help bouncing back after personal criticism of her work knocked her sideways.
- Another starts each day already feeling depleted from the many challenges she faces. She thinks she should be tougher.
- A third knows there are rocky times ahead and wants some strategies so he’s prepared.
In my years of coaching and training in the charity sector, I’ve learned a fair bit about resilience – both from my clients and from my own ups and downs. It’s not something that comes naturally to everyone, but we can all develop greater resilience with practice.
Rather than letting a feeling of failure overwhelm you, here are my top ten steps to help you bounce back from setbacks:
1. Recognise you always have a choice
People will criticise your efforts. Income will drop away. Your well-prepared presentation will go awry. That’s life.
You can’t influence what happens to you but you do have a choice about how you interpret what happens and how you respond. Resilience is about recognising you are not a victim. I encourage my clients to see that they have a choice. A choice to respond in a panic or remain calm. Focus on your choices and on what you can control and you will grow the resilience muscle.
2. Go easy on yourself
It’s so easy to beat yourself up for making a ‘mistake’, but giving yourself a hard time lessens your ability to be resilient. See if you can view the mistake or difficult situation as a temporary setback, rather than illustrating a wider failure. When you are kind to yourself – and that gets easier with practice – you will bounce back from whatever went wrong more quickly.
3. Be solution-focused
At times of stress and overwhelm we tend to think in extreme black and white: “This is right and this is wrong.” “This situation isn’t fair.” “I don’t like what is happening here. It must be bad.” Resilient people look for ways to move on from a challenge positively even if they’re not convinced it’ll work out. They look for solutions rather than problems, asking “how can I make this situation better?”
4. Invite challenges
Challenges and supposed stressful situations don’t need to be avoided so you can stay safe. In fact, when you avoid them you build up fear that is almost as challenging as the challenge itself! Resilience is about deciding to “feel the fear and do it anyway,” welcoming difficult situations as opportunities to grow, however tough.
5. Look forward not back
See if you can notice what went wrong and what you can learn from a situation – and then move on. I encourage my clients not to wallow in the details of what they did or didn’t do or to spend hours wishing things had been different. I know how easy it is to go over and over regrets in your mind but it’s really not good for you. Examine what happened, accept it, think about what you want to be different next time – and move right along without regret.
6. Imagine a positive future
It’s hard to be resilient when you think the future will be all doom and gloom. Resilient people are optimistic. They can imagine a positive future. They believe that things will work out and that they will be OK, however difficult life might be right now. This is really worth working on. We have no idea how the future will turn out so we may as well focus on the positive.
7. Practice empathy
People who are most resilient tend to have strong personal relationships and a network of people they can talk to in tough times. They are empathetic and compassionate to others while not worrying overly about what every single person thinks of them. Believing in yourself and what you can offer to a relationship – without constantly seeking approval – is a big part of being resilient.
8. There is no failure
There is no such thing as failure when you’re practicing resilience. Every single thing that happens is a learning opportunity. And supposed failures are the very best learning of all! I know it’s hard to hear that, but I promise you it’s true.
9. Be committed
Goals, beliefs, friendships, family, causes – things which you care deeply about and are committed to, help enormously with resilience. When things are tough these overriding commitments keep you getting up in the morning. Setbacks fade into insignificance and you just keep going. How can you commit to these things in your life?
10. Use positive self-talk
Positive self-talk is hugely important, too. When you say to yourself, “I am good enough,” “I can get through this,” “I know I will be OK” you’re reminded that things will get better and that your whole life is not a disaster. Even if you don’t believe what you’re saying, positive self-talk puts you in a different space from which you can take action. And then anything can happen! I have seen this work over and over again with my clients.
Over to you
If you struggle bouncing back from setbacks and take it personally when things don’t go as well as you’d hoped, why not bookmark this post and return to it the next time things are feeling tough? But you don’t need to wait for the hard times – it can help to practice these ten steps even when things are going well, so that your resilience is strong enough to support you when you really need it.
Strengthening your resilience can be tough on your own. If you’d like one-to-one support to get you through a difficult time, or to build your resilience so you’re ready for whatever life throws at you, drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.